Trump Called Putin – US President Donald Trump may be having his biggest day of diplomacy yet, speaking by phone Saturday with five world leaders — most significantly Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Germany’s Angela Merkel.
It was Trump’s first phone conversation with the Russian President since his inauguration last week, and one whose outcome will be closely studied.
CNN’s Matthew Chance in Moscow said a Kremlin summary of the phone call talked about stabilizing the relationship between the two nations and several other subjects. Some of the other issues included restoring trade ties, international terrorism, the situations in Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula, and the coordination of military action against ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria.
The Kremlin call summary didn’t specifically mention US sanctions against Russia. It said restoration of mutually beneficial economic ties “could further stimulate progressive and stable development of bilateral relations,” according to a CNN translation of the Russian statement.
The White House called the one-hour chat a significant start to improving a relationship “in need of repair.”
Both Trump and Putin said before the call that they would like to see warmer ties between their two nations. However, relations between Trump and his team and Russia have been under scrutiny following allegations that Moscow meddled in the US election last year.
Speaking Friday at his first White House news conference, Trump indicated a willingness to work with Moscow.
But he said it was “too early” to discuss removing sanctions that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, imposed on Russia.
“We’re looking to have a great relationship with all countries,” Trump said. “If we can have a great relationship with Russia and China and all countries, I’m all for that.”
Friday night, however, a senior administration official said the current plan was not to lift the Russian sanctions.
The Kremlin had sought to lower expectations, suggesting Putin was calling as a matter of protocol to congratulate the US leader on his inauguration.
But there is excitement in Russia about a possible detente between Washington and Moscow under the Trump administration.
Besides imposing the Russian sanctions, Obama earlier this month expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the United States over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Flurry of calls
Before speaking with Putin, Trump held a call with Merkel and spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key ally in Asia.
The 45-minute phone call between Trump and Abe included a discussion of the threat posed by North Korea, and both leaders agreed to speak face to face in Washington on February 10.
Abe and Trump also discussed the significance of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ upcoming visit to Asia, according to the White House.
Later Saturday, Trump was to speak with French President François Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Trump’s calls with Abe and Turnbull come days after he signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a massive trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration that Congress had not yet ratified. Both Abe and Turnbull supported TPP.
The call between Trump and Abe did not include a discussion on a replacement for the TPP, a high-ranking Japanese government official told reporters.
The flurry of telephone diplomacy comes a day after Trump received his first foreign leader at the White House, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who announced that Trump will make a state visit to the United Kingdom.
In a speech to US Republicans, May urged Trump to tread carefully as he deals with Russia, saying: “With President Putin, my advice is to engage but beware.”
Trump also spoke by phone Friday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after a row over Trump’s plans for a wall along the US-Mexico border culminated in Peña Nieto canceling a planned trip to Washington.
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